One of the tenets I’ve been taught in fishing here is to start heavy in terms of gearing up and work down. The logic being if you can get bit on 50, you’re going to be better off than fighting a fish on 20. So you work down to find the heaviest line test that allows you to still get bit. Keep in mind, I fish primarily on sportboats. It’s one thing getting bit on 15 fluoro with a size 4 hook when you can pull up the other lines and chase down a fish on a skiff. On a bigger fish, that’s an immediate LOSE situation on a big boat. Or if it isn’t, it’s at the expense of rest of the anglers as they wait on the angler fighting the fish.
This philosophy has served me well. Especially if you are fishing in the dark or low visibility water, why not go heavy? I remember last year I was on the Amigo out of Ventura Sportfishing. Capt. Bill Cavanaugh told us we’d be fishing the Osborne Bank near Santa Barbara Island. Bill said around 4:30am, just as it was becoming light, they would bite. Since I was fishing a rubber band rig in the dark, I went with my heaviest setup for the trip (60), a heavy gauge 6/0 ringed hook, and the biggest mackerel I could find in the handwell. Sure enough, just as the sun was starting to peek over the horizon, I got the first bite and killed the jackpot fish in about 5 minutes. There’s nothing like the confidence of getting bit on the right gear and pulling as hard as you want.
This year is challenging that philosophy
I didn’t really notice anything different with bluefin. They’re always finicky. You expect to have to downsize to get them to bite. What you don’t expect to see is that kind of behavior with bonito…but I’ve seen it happen this year. I’m seeing it with yellowtail, which isn’t uncommon. I was told this last weekend though that 15 or 20 fluoro, and size 4 hooks are what was needed to get a bite from schoolie YFT…IN THE DARK!
I could theorize as to why the fish are so line shy. I talk about it a lot within my network, but that’s a whole other article. For now, let’s just talk about the cards that’ve been dealt.
It’s made me have to rethink things a bit, make sure I have certain items in the bag. If you find yourself not getting bit, here are some different things you can try.
Obviously, but now I make sure I have at least 20 on the low side. I took my own advice this last weekend and fished a local halfie. There was definitely fish around, but I wasn’t getting consistently bit, even when I had a really hot bait. I was fishing my Kelp Cutter setup with 65 braid to 30 mono. I’ve gotten bit fishing a 50 mono leader in the same scenario, so I was already downsized in my mind. One of the regulars told me he was fishing 8 (really?) and he was consistently getting bit (and not getting broken off). I downsized to 20 fluoro at the last stop of the day and got bit on 9 of 10 baits!
Also consider going mono to fluoro instead of braid to fluoro (in a yellowtail or tuna scenario). Braid sinks. Mono floats. If you are noticing the fish are really active on the surface, especially in a long soak scenario and you’ve got a lot of line out, having a mono vs. braid backing will really change the ultimate presentation of your bait.
Hook Size, Gauge, and Rings
When people talk about hooks, usually the extent of the discussion is “What size hook you using?” Hook size isn’t the only consideration though. The gauge or thickness of the hook can make a huge difference, especially if the bait is smaller or weak. Going back to the example of this weekend, we had beautiful bait, mostly about 4-inch sardines. I started the day using a thicker gauge, 3/0 ringed circle.
When I downsized my leader, I also downsized my hook to a thinner, smaller, non-ringed 1/0 hook. The reason ringed hooks can be effective is because the ring allows the bait to move more freely, look more natural. However, it also adds more weight. To keep that same free movement, when I changed out the leader, I also tied on the smaller hook using a Perfection Loop.
I had one bait get smashed so hard I fought the bass all the way to the surface before I pulled it out of the gut of the fish. The tail third of the sardine was gone and the hook was still in the nose of the bait. The hook never found the mouth of the bass. This calico just inhaled it all the way inside and coughed it up at the surface! The combination of the lighter line, the smaller, thinner hook and dropping the ring made a drastic difference in getting bit.
I still try to go heavier to start, but I’m adjusting more quickly this year. Keep these things in mind if you aren’t getting bit and it could change your day in a big way.
Good luck if you get out there.